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The backstory: Have you heard about the recent legal battle between sportswear giant Adidas and fashion designer Thom Browne? Well, in case you haven't, here's a quick recap. It all started back in 2007 when Adidas accused Browne of copying its trademark three stripes design on a jacket. Browne eventually agreed to switch to a four-stripe design. But, recently, the disagreement reignited, and the two companies went to trial for two weeks over the issue of trademark infringement.
This isn't the first time Adidas has gone after other brands for copying its design – it's also accused brands like Forever 21 and Tesla.
More recently: In 2021, Adidas sued Browne, saying that his "Four-Bar Signature" and other products with parallel stripes on activewear infringed on its trademark. Adidas was asking for almost US$8 million in damages and profits. Browne, on the other hand, argued that the two companies don't compete directly and don't even serve the same market. For example, a pair of Browne's women's compression tights is more than seven times the price of a similar product from Adidas.
The development: In a New York courtroom, a jury ruled in favor of Browne. He testified during the trial, highlighting the influence of sports in his life, his career as a former competitive swimmer and the fact that many professional athletes are his friends and customers. After the trial, Browne said he hoped his victory would inspire other designers being challenged by big clothing giants. Adidas has suggested it may appeal the decision.
“And I think it’s more important and bigger than me, because I think I was fighting for every designer that creates something and has a bigger company come after them later,” said Thom Browne, the fashion designer who was sued by Adidas, to The Associated Press, referring to the trademark infringement lawsuit filed by Adidas.
“We are disappointed with the verdict and will continue to vigilantly enforce our intellectual property, including filing any appropriate appeals,” said Rich Efrus, an Adidas spokesperson, in an email.
“Thom Browne’s counsel got the jury to see this case as The People vs. The Corporation, and populism won,” said Jeff Trexler, a faculty member at the Fashion Law Institute at Fordham Law School, on how the jury sided with Browne in court.